Interview with Champion Professional Tennis Player Aaron Krickstein

By Zac Cornell

Aaron Krickstein is an American professional tennis player who competed on the ATP tour from 1983-1996. Krickstein, who is from Detroit, Michigan, reached his career apex as the world’s number 6 player. His nickname, “Marathon Man,” alluded to his competitive stamina to make comebacks when trailing behind. He had 10 career wins when trailing from 0-2 set deficits. 

Krickstein has won 9 career titles. He was the youngest player to win a singles title on the ATP tour at 16 years old. He was also the youngest player to be ranked in the top 10 at 17 years old. His most memorable tennis match was against Jimmy Connors in the fourth round at the 1991 US Open, an exceptional match that is regularly shown during annual US Open rain delays. After a long five set match, Krickstein ultimately fell short of victory. Connors was 39 at the time and Krickstein was only 24.

To continue playing competitive tennis, Krickstein joined the senior Outback Champions Series. The tournament, operated by InsideOut Sports & Entertainment, consists of players 30 and older. They do not hold as much pressure as ATP tournaments do, which is a benefit for the players. Krickstein is also the director of tennis at St. Andrews Country Club.

We were thrilled to talk with Krickstein and hear about his experience playing professional sports.

Zac: What do you think are the benefits of playing professional sports? 

Aaron: Playing a professional sport like tennis was a dream come true for me. The benefits of playing professionally in sports are tremendous, as you get to play a sport that you love to play, make a living doing so and in tennis, get the opportunity to travel the world and visit many beautiful countries that otherwise you probably would never have the chance to do. You also are given the opportunity to meet many people from all over the world and perform at the highest level in front of many fans in some of the most famous tournaments and venues.  

Zac: Do you think there have been many changes in the world of tennis since you were playing professionally? How so?

Aaron: Yes, tennis has certainly evolved since I played professionally from 1983-1996. Some of the noticeable changes are the following….. 

The overall size (height), agility and speed of the players has increased and of course the overall power of the game (which is definitely helped by the new technology of racquets and string) are some of the things that have transformed the game. There are some other technology changes as well, like the Hawkeye line calling system which enables players to challenge line calls during the match. 

Zac: How do you think social media has changed the landscape for athletes?

Aaron: Social media definitely has its advantages but also can have its drawbacks as well. Social media gives players and athletes an opportunity to reach out to their fans and promote their sport in real time – something that wasn’t available when I was on the ATP Tour.  

Do you wish that social media existed when you were a player?

Yes! – I would have definitely liked wow of today’s social media platforms when I was on tour.  

What do you think are the most important qualities to be a successful athlete?

I have always believed some of the most important qualities to be a successful athlete are desire, discipline, dedication, determination and of course there is no substitute for hard work and having the talent to perform at the highest level. Being mentally tough and playing your best when under pressure is also a trait that separates the best of the best. 

Zac: What was your most memorable match as a player? What sticks with you today?

Aaron: I had many memorable matches during my career (wins and losses) but a couple of the memorable wins that come to mind are my 1990 USA Davis Cup quarterfinal clinching victory in Prague over top Czech Republic player Petr Korda. It was a hostile environment and crowd but it was awesome and quite rewarding for me to play so well and win the overall match for the USA. Also, beating Wimbledon Champion Stefan Edberg in the 4th round of the 1988 US Open in 5 sets and also defeating Andre Agassi at the 1991 US Open were exciting victories for me. 

As for losses, there are too many to mention, but obviously my most memorable loss was to Jimmy Connors in the 4th round of the 1991 US Open on Labor Day.  It was Connors’ 39th Birthday and to lose 7-6 in the 5th set after nearly 5 hours was definitely an excruciating loss and one that will always stay with me. 

Zac: What advice would you have for kids who want to pursue a tennis career?

Aaron: My advice would be the following: First of all, in order to be successful in tennis (just like everything in life) you need to be given the opportunity to succeed – meaning you will need some financial support from your parents or guardian to assist in guiding and helping you improve your game and hopefully attain your goals. This will include lessons, clinics and also travel expenses to play tournaments. More importantly, you will need emotional support and love from your parents and family. Growing up as a Jr tennis player, you have to realize you are going to have some ups and downs in your pursuit of making the high school team, perhaps a college team and if you are lucky enough that realistically very few make the professional tour. The reality is tennis at times can be a very lonely and difficult sport as there’s only one winner in a singles tennis match, so there’s no hiding behind a team or teammate if you lose. You have to deal with it, learn from it and work even harder to get better. In tennis, you are out there all by yourself vs your opponent, with basically no coaching allowed and you have to figure things out on your own. Obviously, you also need talent and understand that it takes a tremendous commitment from you and your family to achieve your goals. Even then – there are no guarantees but in the end you must work hard, have serious discipline to give yourself the best chance to be the best player you can possibly be. Whatever your goals may be, enjoy the ride and always try to enjoy every moment along the way.

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